Movie review: Humans bicker as zombies go on the rampage in ‘Survival of the Dead’

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

George A. Romero’s zombie movies may no longer frighten, but the director always tries to provide something to chew on. In his new “Survival of the Dead,” though, the metaphorical meat is one audiences may not care to digest.

On an island off the Delaware coast where people speak with thick Irish brogues, an age-old conflict between clans rages despite the undead plague one would think should take precedence. Instead, they focus their animus on each other, essentially waiting for the zombies — which one side is trying to train to not eat humans — to get loose and, well, eat all the humans.

Romero is using better actors than in the past, which helps. But they are hobbled by a sometimes nonsensical script with logical lapses even genre fans will find hard to swallow. Most of all, who cares about these spiteful folks whose noses are sure to get bitten off? The metaphor of senseless rancor is clear, but it’s not compelling when the slow-moving monsters pose more of a nuisance than a threat. The menu includes new and creative ways to make heads detonate but nothing resembling a scare despite the Godfather of Gore’s disappointing reliance on jumping-out-of-the-cupboard tactics. The running, screaming, ravenous undead of “28 Days Later,” “Zombieland” and the excellent Zack Snyder remake of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” far more effectively inspire fear, rather than annoyance.

And when there’s social commentary present, a spoonful of gut-wrenching terror might help the medicine go down.

“George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.” MPAA rating: R for strong zombie violence/gore, language and brief sexuality. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Playing at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles and the South Coast Village 3 in Santa Ana (and available on VOD).

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